Lentil, barley, and rice soup

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Kelda Hains described this soup as the sort of recipe you keep tucked away for times when the cupboard is almost bare but you are in need of something nourishing and substantial. From a cup of lentils, a couple of tablespoons of rice and barley, plus the usual suspects of onion, carrot, and celery, comes a soup that makes you pause after the first spoonful to either pat yourself on the back for making it or compliment the cook on their truly good work.

Lentil, barley, and rice soup (Lois Daish, Listener, April 29, 2006, p.61)

8 cups (2 litres) of light beef or chicken stock or water (I used water)

1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste

3/4 cup red lentils

2 tablespoons arborio or other short-grain rice

2 tablespoons pearl barley

3 tablespoons oil

3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste (will be much tastier if you toast whole cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and then grind them in a mortar and pestle)

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Put the stock or water into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and add the tomato paste, lentils, barley and rice. Bring back the boil and then lower the heat and simmer while you prepare the vegetables.

Put the oil in a large frying pan and add the carrots, celery and onions. Season with salt and pepper and gently fry until the onion starts to soften. Sprinkle with the cumin and transfer the contents of the frying pan to the saucepan of soup. Continue to simmer the soup until the grains and vegetables are very tender – about 45 minutes. Add more water to the soup if it is very thick. Taste the soup and add more salt, pepper and cumin if needed and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice to add a delicate tang.

Baked rice pudding

Detail of illustration by Geoffery Notman, Dinner at Home, 1993, p. 89.

Detail of illustration by Geoffery Notman, Dinner at Home, 1993, p. 89.

There’s an art to making a pudding out of a few simple ingredients. Baked rice pudding is what Lois Daish categorises as a ‘milk pudding’; an endearing term with a cosy nursery supper time feel to it. Other milk puddings include bread and butter pudding, lemon delicious, and rhubarb fool. These old-fashioned style puddings are exactly what I feel like eating in the depths of winter.

The main (but unlisted) ingredient for Lois’ baked rice pudding is time. Preparation takes minutes; the baking takes hours. However these are hours you can spend doing something else, warm in the knowledge that rice pudding is imminent.

Baked rice pudding (Lois Daish, Listener, August 13 2005)

3 cups milk (not trim milk)

3 tablespoons calrose or arborio rice

3 tablespoons caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or half a vanilla pod

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 150°C (not fan bake). Put all ingredients into a deep baking dish with a capacity of one litre and give it a stir. Place in the oven and bake for 2 1/2 hours, stirring the pudding three times during the first hour and then leaving it undisturbed for the remainder of the cooking time. The pudding will develop a golden skin on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. Serves 2-3 generously and any cold leftovers are a thing of joy the next day.

Layered Savoy cabbage, mince & rice

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Lois had an academic approach to curating recipes for her Listener column. Often not content with picking up ‘second hand’ recipes, Lois would try and get as close to the source of a recipe as possible. Lois would seek out books on traditional cookery from particular countries and cultural groups, and try out recipes she came across in historical accounts or memoirs. Conversations with friends, neighbours and colleagues about their own food culture was another source of inspiration for Lois, and this Hungarian-derived recipe for layered savoy cabbage with mince and rice came by way of her friend Klara.

Savoy cabbages are such a visually beautiful winter vegetable and in this dish they are really given a starring role. Layers of cabbage are alternated with layers of a gently spiced rice and mince mixture and then baked in the oven until the top layer of cabbage turns deliciously dark brown and crunchy. Once baked, it is served with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of yoghurt on top to make a perfectly balanced ‘one bowl’ dinner.

Layered Savoy cabbage, mince & rice (Klara do Toit & Lois Daish, Listener, July 18 1998)

1 medium Savoy cabbage (about 1kg)

3/4 cup long grain rice

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

300g good quality beef mince

2 teaspoons paprika

generous pinch of caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup beef stock or water

oil for greasing baking dish

1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs

For serving:

plain unsweetened yoghurt (I use The Collective)

a lemon, cut into quarters

Cut out the core of the cabbage by turning it upside down and cutting in a circle around the core with a small knife. As you do this the outside leaves of the cabbage will fall off. Carry on pulling off the leaves until you get down to the small tight core of the cabbage which can be discarded. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add the cabbage leaves (do this in batches if your pot isn’t large enough). Use a spoon to push the leaves down into the water and and place the lid back on. Once the cabbage leaves have softened (about 3-4 minutes), remove from the water and drain in a colander.

Wash the rice in a sieve and put in a covered saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and then turn right down to low and cook until all of the water is absorbed; about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the rice on the still warm element.

Preheat oven to 190°C (fan bake setting). Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes before adding the beef mince. Continue to cook (stirring to break up any lumps) until the beef is no longer pink, then add the paprika, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Add the beef stock and cook until it has been absorbed – this will take about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Brush an ovenware dish (approximately 25 x 18cm) with oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Spread a double layer of cabbage leaves in the dish, then a thin layer of the rice mixture. Repeat the layering two or three times finishing with cabbage leaves on top. Bake for about 45 minutes. To serve, cut into squares and serve with a dollop of yoghurt on top and a wedge of lemon on the side to squeeze over top.

Pumpkin, onion, and lemon kedgeree

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Smoked fish seemed like such an integral ingredient to kedgeree that I really couldn’t imagine it without. Let alone imagine that kedgeree might even be better with pumpkin than smoked fish. At best, I thought, this was a good recipe to have up my sleeve for times when something comforting and substantial is needed for dinner but there isn’t much besides a wedge of pumpkin lurking in the fridge.

When Queen of Kedgeree Kelda Hains (and co-owner of the unsurpassable Nikau Cafe) mentioned pumpkin kedgeree as one of Lois’ recipes that she continues to make, I knew beyond doubt that it was going to be good. But not only is it good, pumpkin kedgeree is delicious. I still love smoked fish kedgeree but there is definitely a place for both.

Pumpkin, onion, and lemon kedgeree (adapted slightly from Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p. 98)

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

4 tablespoons butter

2 onions, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

750g Crown pumpkin (grey-skinned), deseeded, peeled, and chopped into 1cm pieces

2 tablespoons curry powder

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup water

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon

handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Accompaniments to serve with the kedgeree (some, or all of the following):

Lemon wedges

Unsweetened yoghurt with some chopped fresh mint and black pepper stirred through

Sliced hard boiled eggs

Finely chopped spring onions

Chutney

A salad of diced tomato, cucumber

To prepare the rice:

Start off by cooking the rice. Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear. Put into a medium sized saucepan with a lid and add 3 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down to low. With the lid on the pan continue cooking the rice until most of the water has evaporated and there are little ‘tunnels’ on the surface. Turn off the heat and leave the rice on the element with the lid on. Leave for 15 minutes and then turn out into a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Once cool enough use your hands to break up any lumps of rice.

To make the kedgeree:

Melt the butter in a very large frying pan and add the diced onion. Fry gently for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the chopped garlic and fry for a couple more minutes. Add the diced pumpkin and sprinkle over the curry powder and continue to fry for another couple of minutes. Squeeze over the lemon juice, add the water and season well with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cover the pan.

Cook gently until the pumpkin is tender; carefully stir the pumpkin every now and again to ensure it cook evenly. Test a piece of pumpkin to see if it’s ready; it should be soft but still holding its shape. Add the rice to the pan and carefully turn and stir the rice into the curried vegetable mixture until all of the grains are golden. Squeeze over the juice of the remaining lemon, grind over more black pepper and sprinkle with parsley before serving with your chosen condiments.